How to Book a Trip: Travel Resources

How to Book a Trip: The Travel Resources You Need for Every Step of Your Trip

Resources Travel Planning

Booking a trip is always a complete whirlwind of activity, choices, and constantly making decisions that you’re not 100% certain about.

While we’ve adapted to this during the course of our full-time travels, I’ll never forget how indecisive I was the first time my finger hovered over the “book” button for our very first trip to Paris (also our very first trip to Europe), or when booking our honeymoon to The Bahamas (the first time we ever left the USA).

The best way I’ve found to counteract those nerves? Knowing where to start, what to look for, and where to dive in.

To help with that, we’ve put together this list of travel resources–some that we use personally, some that we’ve stopped using, and some that we’re just familiar with.

Take a deep breath: it’s time to start planning.

Getting There & Around:

Planes:

Flight Search Engines:

Our trip planning always begins with transportation: before booking lodging or committing to excursions, we always, always commit to actually going.

Google Flights 

This is where we always begin our flight search. Google searches the various booking sites for you, and pulls up all available flights from almost every carrier–including discount carriers. From there, we tend to book with the best-priced carrier directly.

Expedia

We used Expedia as our go-to flight search engine for years, and never had any problems. After a few too many horror stories about issues booking through third party carriers, we stopped using them in favor of booking directly with the companies, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Expedia to someone comfortable with the risk.

Scott’s Cheap Flights

Scott tracks flight deals (particularly round trip international tickets beginning and ending in the United States), and then emails them out to subscribers. We’ve seen some amazing deals this way. We use the free service, though there is a premium option as well if you’re looking to track flights very closely.

Scott tracks flight deals (particularly round trip international tickets beginning and ending in the United States), and then emails them out to subscribers. We’ve seen some amazing deals this way. We use the free service, though there is a premium option as well if you’re looking to track flights very closely.

How to Book a Trip: Travel Resources

While we aren’t as familiar with them, Skyscanner, Priceline, OrbitzKayak, and Momondo are also popular search engines used for flights.

Keep in mind that when booking through any third party carrier, the customer service you receive from an airline in the event of something going wrong will likely be diminished from what you receive if you book directly.

Low-Cost Airline Carriers:

Europe:

Ryanair

You either love them or hate them, but we love them: in our opinion, Ryanair offers one of the most competitive ways to get around Europe (and a few other surrounding countries). They’re efficient and cheap, the planes feel clean and safe, and we’ve always had great experiences with them–just please, please make sure that you read the fine print and bring your printed boarding pass to the gate!

Norwegian

One of the first companies to bring transcontinental bargain flights to the United States. We have had great experiences with them, though their site isn’t incredibly user-friendly.

Wow Air 

We haven’t found their prices in Europe to be as competitive as Ryanair’s, but they have started offering transcontinental flights from the United States to Europe as well.

Pegasus Air

While not as inexpensive as Ryanair, Pegasus Air is a Turkish bargain airline, and therefore flies to parts of Turkey/Greece/Eastern Europe that Ryanair doesn’t reach.

EasyJet 

Budget airline, primarily in Europe. We haven’t found their prices competitive enough to use yet, but it’s always worth checking.

How to Book a Trip: Travel Resources

United States:

Southwest

Not technically a budget carrier, but I love flying Southwest in the USA, and now into some parts of Latin America.

We’ve found their prices to be comparable to other airlines, but once you add in the fact that bags are included in Southwest’s price and that by booking directly through them you are able to change your flight with no cost (even their cheaper tickets!), Southwest becomes the clear winner.

Southwest is protective of their flights–you won’t find them listed on any search engine, including Google Flights. Be sure to check their website directly.

Alaska Air

Budget carrier on with a focus on the northwest United States.

Allegiant

Budget carrier in the United States.

Frontier

Budget carrier with a focus on the United States. 

Things to do in Savannah

Asia:

Air Asia

Budget carrier in Asia. We used Air Asia on several flights in Southeast Asia and never had any issues.

Tiger Air

Budget carrier in Asia.

Trains:

Rail Europe

A popular train pass company in Europe. We have never found train passes to be worth the price tag as compared to buying tickets a la carte as we need them, especially since planes and buses often offer better deals than trains.

However, exploring Europe by train is sometimes the cornerstone of a trip, so if that’s your goal, a pass may be in your best interest. Be sure to check the fine print for blackout dates, class availability, and other odds and ends.

Amtrak

The United State’s train system is not nearly as extensive or popular as Europe’s, but you can buy both single tickets and multi-destination tickets on it. We expect to use Amtrak for the first time this summer and are looking forward to forming our own opinions.

Cars:

We don’t rent cars often, but when we do, we go with small, inexpensive cars that we can find at the lowest price.

Hertz, Budget, Avis, Enterprise

All are major rental car agencies in the USA that also have an international presence. We have rented from all of them and would not hesitate to use any of them again.

Sixt

Global rental car agency that we have frequently found competitive prices with while in Europe.

Uber

Controversies aside, in some parts of the world, Uber is incredibly useful to have. We were particularly happy to have it in Mexico City, where Uber is considered safer and more economical than traditional taxis.

Lyft

Car-sharing service around the world.

Blablacar

Though we haven’t had a chance to use it yet, Blablacar is gaining popularity among travelers, particularly in Europe. This is a long-distance ridesharing service: think Airbnb for transportation.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

When renting a car anywhere in the world, remember to pay close attention to the insurance situation. Your car insurance in your home country may or may not cover the rental abroad, that coverage may or may not be limited, and your travel insurance policy and the credit card you used to book the rental also may or may not offer coverage.

Bottom line: read the fine print and know exactly how much risk you are taking on when renting a car.

Finding Where to Stay:

Airbnb

Airbnb is almost always our first stop when choosing lodging, and we’ve consistently found great places to stay through it. After dozens of Airbnb stays, we’ve only had one negative experience, and even that was pretty mild (the promised wifi didn’t work). If you haven’t tried Airbnb before, sign up with our link to receive a discount on your first stay!

Booking.com

If Airbnb is a bust or we want to stay in a hostel/hotel/guesthouse, booking.com is our next stop. We love the sheer number of reviews that the properties usually have, and they tend to be fairly accurate. We’ve also had great experiences with their customer service, which is a plus.

Hostelworld

If the first two don’t work out, Hostelworld is our next step. Typically, we’ve found Hostelworld most useful in Europe, though they have listings around the world. They don’t tend to have as many reviews or properties as booking.com, and often the properties they do have are also listed on booking.com, so we don’t use them often. We have occasionally found properties here that we didn’t find elsewhere, though.

Agoda

We used Agoda throughout Southeast Asia due to their numerous good reviews/word of mouth recommendations through the internet. We were very satisfied with them there, but once we left Southeast Asia we noticed an uptick in prices compared to booking.com and fewer listings. For now, we’ll stick with using them in Asia only.

VRBO

Though we’ve stayed in multiple VRBO properties, we’ve never actually booked one ourselves: my grandmother uses them regularly and we have stayed on family group trips in VRBO’s several times. Similar in setup to Airbnb, VRBO is a peer-to-peer home rental service. I’ve observed that the homes there tend to be larger/more luxurious than those on Airbnb, catering to a different clientele–though there is some overlap of listings.

Couchsurfing

We’ve never tried Couchsurfing, but it remains a popular way to find lodging abroad. Supply has dwindled in recent years as the number of “takers” (people wanting a free place to stay, perhaps without socializing with the host as would be considered typical while couchsurfing), has begun to outnumber the “givers” (people wanting to open their homes).

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Though we don’t have as much experience with booking lodging through them, Hotels.com, Priceline, and Expedia are also popular ways of finding hotels.

Finding Things to Do:

Searching for Attractions:

Wikitravel

A great jumping off point to get the basics about a destination and start planning a tentative route and budget.

Trip Advisor

We don’t book tours through Trip Advisor (they’re usually insanely overpriced), but we do use Trip Advisor to scan the top attractions in any area, to get a general picture of what highlights we can expect.

Pinterest

Rather than social media, we consider Pinterest to be a great search engine. We often find engaging blog posts about our destinations on Pinterest that are from blogs too small to dominate the Google search rankings. 

Google 

Who would skip this step?

Guidebooks

While we tend to rely more on the internet than paperbacks these days, there’s still something incredibly fun about having a guidebook to flip through. If you have a home to bring the books back to and like using them as a souvenir of sorts, it may be worth it to pick up a guidebook for a trip that requires a lot of planning.

Things to Do in Oaxaca

With a couple of limited exceptions in Europe when we first started traveling, we live by the general rule of not booking tours and excursions in advance. That rule of thumb has saved us literally thousands of dollars over the past year alone, and we stand by it.

The exception? If you want to do something once-in-a-lifetime with limited access (famous multi-day treks that require a permit, etc.), double check how far in advance you need to book.

City Passes:

City passes are a good deal–sometimes. Our advice is to add up everything you plan to use the City Pass for and compare that cost to the pass itself–if you’re breaking even or saving a little money, it’s likely worth it.

One thing that we love about city passes is that they can encourage visits to lesser known museums and attractions that are included in the price. These attractions are often interesting, but easy to overlook unless you’ve already “paid” for them.

City Passes are very popular in world-renowned destinations such as London, Rome, and New York, but don’t forget to check the tourism office in lesser known destinations for their city cards–they can often be a complete bargain. Our city pass for Bolzano, Italy certainly wasn’t advertised with the same intensity as the Paris Pass–but the Bolzano Pass ended up being a much better deal.

While you can purchase passes in advance, we’ve never been to a city that wasn’t also selling them on site in a tourism office or nearby location.

Travel Insurance:

World Nomads

We use World Nomads during all of our extended travels. Though we’ve been lucky enough to never have to file a claim, we love the clarity of the website, the ease of purchasing online, and the clear explanations of coverage.

World Nomads is highly recommended among long-term travelers, and we consistently hear good things about their customer service from those who have to file a claim.

Travel Gear:

Amazon

Most of our travel gear, from our camera to our money belt and almost everything in between, was purchased on Amazon due to the competitive prices and convenient delivery.

How to Book a Trip: Travel Resources

Do you have any go-to travel resources? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll update anything we’ve missed!

How to Book a Trip: Travel Resources

Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you click through one of these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We are committed to only ever recommending products and services that we personally use and like.

8 Comments Write a comment

8 Comments

  • Rob Taylor April 8, 2017

    Google Flights and VRBO are our staples for making great travel plans. Especially Google Flights flexible search options and date based searching. Love it!

    • Kate Storm April 8, 2017

      Me, too! I have entirely too much fun clicking on random cities on the Google Flights map to see how much it will cost to fly there.

  • Eric || The Bucket List Project April 8, 2017

    Great list of tools to help organize anyone’s travel. I never heard of Scott’s flights. By the way I know you said you didn’t use them but you should consider Expedia as a secondary and immediately always start off light travels research with momondo or Skyscanner in my opinion

    • Kate Storm April 8, 2017

      I love Scott’s Cheap Flights! I know some people love Skyscanner and Momondo, but I’ve never liked them enough to beat out Google for a comprehensive starting point. 🙂

  • Brian April 9, 2017

    Most of the flights I’ve taken have been within the US, but I still haven’t used Southwest. I’ve just warmed up to Airbnb and am glad I tried it.

    • Kate Storm April 9, 2017

      Southwest is definitely worth it if you get the chance! We’ve had consistently great experiences with them. I’m so glad you liked Airbnb–opens up a whole new world of travel options. 🙂

  • Lisa April 9, 2017

    Great article. A couple comments I’d like to add: I am also subscribed to Scott’s Cheap flights, unfortunately, it’s not in my part of Europe yet, but believe it to be not long. I’ll be waiting. Being an American, living in Europe, I use mostly Skyscanner for searches. Here I can enter origin Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, all close to me and enter flexible destination and even cheapest month to go, it gives me the options and then takes me to the airlines for booking. Have used it numerous times and love it. Yes, not much can beat Ryan Air for within Europe. To keep it cheap, use only carry on luggage, and don’t pay for extras (seat, priority, etc). Some tickets are even 2.99 one way. For Uber, I love it. Used it on our trip to the US, Sweden and Holland so far. I also use in addition to the hotels you mentioned is hotels.com, here I get a discounted price from using it so often and you get a free night when booking over 10 rooms. Norweigan Air, Wow Air and Wizz are also great for cheap flights.

    • Kate Storm April 9, 2017

      Man, I want to find those 2.99 Ryanair flights!! We use Ryanair almost exclusively in Europe, but the cheapest we’ve ever paid is $35 (though that did include bags–we can’t bring ourselves to go carry-on only, though I know many long term travelers do).

Leave a Reply